The Blended Family
(I’d rather call it The Stew Pot Family)

Marriage is beautiful and not easy. Being parents is beautiful and not easy. Blending a family is beautiful and definitely not easy. And I think Blending can give the wrong impression. In modern times Blending can give the idea that we are all to be cut down to a uniform state. That mind-set can lead to unrealistic expectations. I’d rather refer to it as establishing a Stew-Pot Family, maybe that’s because I am Irish. In a stew there are many obvious constituents that are surrounded by delicious gravy. The parts of a family from different parents are better seen as parts that are part of a whole. I would suggest that all those who are about to enter into ‘Blending’ families would greatly benefit by Family Therapy. Even if you are in the middle of ‘blending,’ Therapy can help a lot! What are some of the issues/problems that are unique to Blending a family?

  • How can the Step-PARENT deal with disciplining?
  • What communication patterns/methods are best between households?
  • Are all children supposed to act like they are all biological offspring of the same parents?
  • What can we do about angry ex-spouses?
  • How can I help my children move comfortably between households?
  • When, if ever, should I tell my children ‘the truth‘?
  • As a Step-parent, what is my role?
  • How does the ‘new’ couple deal with the stresses of blending?
  • What hurts my kids the most?

Biological parents, Stepparents, children from different relationships and sometimes children from the new relationship. The parents must learn to deal with this new structure and the Stepparents have to also. The children may have moves between homes and the children of this new relationship do not. There are extended family members introduced in large numbers. How can these changes be introduced without stress? Impossible. You just must be aware that stress will be part of the new set up and be prepared. The adults would be wise to seek out an experienced Family Therapist to help navigate how to, most effectively, become a good Stepmom or Dad and learn how to avoid some of the pitfalls.

Often the Ex husband/wife is demonized. This is a real tragedy for children. There are some exes who do act very unhealthily in dealing with the children’s other parent and can add to children’s pain. The healthier parent must not meet such poor communication or behavior with reactions. It is best to try provide the stability you can for the children. Be open and caring while being strong. Do not feed into reactions and escalations. This is what you can do to help your stepchild or biological child with problems.

Children need a healthy environment to grow. Life has enough stressors for them. You can control yourself and help them have the stability they need. You cannot control the other parent.

Don’t expect instant love and togetherness in the home. There’s a lot of change happening here. Kids will need time to adjust to other kids and Stepparents. They will have all sorts of residual feelings from the breakup of their parents’ marriage. Go slowly and be patient. Plan rather than reacting. Being a Stepmom or a Stepdad, don’t rush things. Don’t try to be their parent. Be there to support and comfort. Don’t get too upset when your wife or husband spends time with the children. Have your own support relationships and allow your spouse to have some alone time with the children. Make sure too to have your couple time. Plot it in. Go for Couples Therapy to help you move as smoothly as possible through the beginning times. Marriage is beautiful and not easy. With a Stew Pot Family there is more potential for struggle. Get help before mistakes are made.